An international team of scientists have observed the behaviour of various groups of cetaceans in the Strait of Gibraltar and Cape Breton in Canada belonging to the Globicephala melasspecies, which are also known as long-finned pilot whales. These results show that these whales use synchronised swimming when they identify the presence of an external threat.
There are 300 pilot whales inhabiting the Straight of Gibraltar. Here these cetaceans remain throughout the entire year in the water of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. But, little is known about their social structure.
Headed by the University of Aberdeen (United Kingdom) in collaboration with the Doñana Biological Station (CSIC) and Conservation, Information and Study on Cetaceans (CIRCE) group, the study analysed the patterns of association between individuals within this whale community. The aim was to provide a long-term vision of their social system.
"The important point is that we compared two different populations: one inhabiting the Strait of Gibraltar which is exposed to predators (boats in this case) and another with an ecotype where there are not so many boats (Cape Breton in Canada). The pilot whales are social species and we were interested in seeing how mothers teach their young, for example. We observed that they use synchronised swimming when in danger," as explained by Renaud de Stephanis, researcher of the Biological Station of Doñana and coauthor of the study published in the journal Behavioural Processes.
Between 1999 and 2006 the scientists gathered samples in an area of 23,004 km in the Strait of Gibraltar and took 4,887 images of the dorsal fins of whales to compare them with those in Canada.
According to the researcher, these cetaceans also have a social structure formed by permanent partnerships. This means that they spend their life with the same whales and they do not interchange between different groups, as in the case of bottlenose dolphins.
Thanks to the study we now know that the presence of vessels also disturbs diving behaviour. "As such, when we began observing the whales up close, they tended to spend quite some time on the surface. However, the longer we spent nearby, the longer they stayed under water. This behavioural change could affect their energy levels, since they then have to make more of an effort to protect themselves and their young. In turn this limits hunting time, which means that they cannot feed their young properly," concludes the researcher.
Valeria Senigaglia, Renaud de Stephanis, Phillippe Verborgh, David Lusseau. "The role of synchronized swimming as affiliative and anti-predatory behavior in long-finned pilot whales" Behavioural Processes 91 (2012) 8-14.
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology: http://www.fecyt.es/fecyt/home.do
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Dinosaurs, those bygone masters of the planet, were warm-blooded just like today's mammals, according to a scientist who judged their metabolism using body mass and growth rates deduced from fossils of species including Tyrannosaurus rex.
Previously unknown prehistoric beaver bears an uncanny likeness to the modern state symbol
The latest research shows memories “lost” to amnesia aren’t gone forever; they’re just not accessible
The chief disease agency in the U.S. is looking into why the spores shipped to laboratories in nine states and a military base in South Korea hadn't been properly neutralized. So far no one is sick.
When players can change tactics, the game loops endlessly between the three weapons
When you spend five years watching kangaroos, you start to see some strange things.
Nearly three-quarters of fresh shop-bought chickens test positive for food poisoning bug campylobacter in year-long study.
Designed to give paralysed people more independence, the implant also lets us see if brain activity can show a person's decisions – before they realise they've made any
Australopithecus deyiremeda, which lived about 3.4 million yeas ago, suggests our ancestors were more diverse than we thought
Scientists say it's not just a murder from another era, but also part of one of the earliest mass graves.